Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Some lovely wines enjoyed over the last few days

Last week was the first "bottle blind" tasting of the summer season at Nottingham Wine Circle. As usual, there were almost too many good wines for me to comment on in any detail, but two wines turned out to be rather special - and both courtesy of the ever-generous David Selby;

Albert Boxler Gewurztraminer 2000 Alsace Grand Cru Brand
This had some of us (me included) fooled into thinking it was a Pinot Gris - it really was that good(!) The nose screamed toffee, orange pith, violets and rich, earthy minerality. I guess the giveaway should have been the notes of lychee and rosewater, which I often find in Pinot Gris, but are always there in good (or in this case, great) Gewurztraminer. For what it's worth, there were even shades of a rich Riesling, courtesy of some appley notes and a touch of herbiness. In other words, complexity by the bucketload. With a nose like that, one would almost expect the palate to be a bit of a let-down, but it was nothing of the sort. It was rich but not cloying, floral without smothering the fruit, sweet-ish but with the most delicious streak of citrus-like acidity and a long, minerally, tangy finish. And once again, oh-so complex - in fact, one of the finest (if not the finest) Gewurztraminers I have ever tasted.

Charles Joguet Clos de La Dioterie 1997 Chinon
Now here's a real rarity - a Cabernet Franc that had me (not to mention most of the other Cab Franc naysayers in the Wine Circle) completely bowled-over. Almost Pinot Noir-like on the nose - perfumed, ripe, floral, earthy, with notes of raspberries and violets and a touch of cedar - and no stalkiness or green pepper! The brilliant nose was matched all the way by the brilliant, beguiling palate, which was deceptively light and elegant, with oodles of secondary red and black fruit flavours mingled with some really quite fresh notes of raspberry and strawberry, a touch of cream (presumably courtesy of beautifully integrated oak) and gorgeous, mouth-watering acidity. Very long and very lovely. In fact, its sheer elegance, lightness and complexity really would give many a fine Burgundy a run for their money. Fabulous wine.

And here's a couple of nice ones TLD and I enjoyed at home over the weekend..................

Les Vignes de l'Arque Vin de Pays Duché d'Uzès 2002
I remember seeing the articles on the news and in the press about the floods in Languedoc and Rhone in September 2002. Images of trees and furniture (and even a grand piano) floating down the swollen River Gard, following no less than 26 inches of rain in 24 hours, linger long in the memory. Aside from the damage to so many people's property and possessions, it was a disastrous end to what had been a pretty dismal vintage in both of these regions, with rain and cold (or at least not very warm) weather prevailing for most of what passed as summer.

But what of this 2002 red, from a relatively unknown backwater of the Languedoc, around 15 km west of Uzes? Well, as with quite a few wines from this much-maligned vintage that I have consumed (and of course sold) in the past, it really does disprove the theory that all 2002's were thin, green and unripe. It is a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache, aged for just 4 months in oak barrels. The colour is fairly evolved - light and bloody, with a hint of bricking at the edge. But the aromas and flavours are perferctly preserved and really quite fresh, which is a real confidence-booster, considering that this is the oldest wine sealed under a DIAM cork that I've ever drank (I have long been an advocate of DIAM as an alternative to one-piece corks, with only the potential longevity to be proven - until now). On the nose, we have refreshing aromas of raspberry, cherry and bramble, with hints of meat and savoury, polished leather, forest floor and eau de vie, whilst the palate delivers equally refreshing fruit and secondary flavours, with tannins which are reasonably grippy, perhaps even a touch stalky, yet essentially light - and certainly not unripe. But there is plenty of fruit left in a wine from a vintage which - perhaps by common consent amongst Languedoc and Rhone lovers - probably should have been drunk years ago. It isn't a great wine - few, if any 2002's ever were, or ever would be - but it is a thoroughly enjoyable one. I'm not entirely sure why I kept it this long, but the wait has done it no harm. I do actually still have a handful of 2002's from other growers tucked away here and there, and on this showing, I see no reason to drink them quickly. Who knows........ some may even turn out to be as good as this one.

Incidentally, if you fancy trying a bottle of the Duché d'Uzès Rouge 2009 (a totally different animal, and from a superb vintage), it will cost you the princely sum of £9.95. And the other wines from Les Vignes de l'Arque ain't half bad either.
Alain Graillot La Guiraude 1995 Crozes-Hermitage
This is the second or third of a handful of bottles I picked up at auction a couple of years back for a real song (around a tenner a bottle, if memory serves) and it is really is in fine fettle. 100% Syrah (I assume) with classic aged Crozes aromas of bramble, violet and lily of the valley. Actually, there are none of the smoky bacon/fat aromas one normally expects, with the savoury elements being more in the way of Provencal herbs, Asian spices and damp earth. But it really is a squeaky-clean example of its kind, and a beautifully balanced one at that, with deliciously ripe, but acidity-laden fruit - brambly, but with a lovely citrus edge and no impression of sweetness or extraction. There's still some tannin there, which adds a tangy, tea-like quality, but of the fragrant, flavoursome kind, rather than the bottom-of-the-pot kind, leading to a dry but mouth-watering finish. It really is a cracking wine, from a very fine Northern Rhone grower at the height of his powers. Yum!


Alex Lake said...

Interesting notes, Leon. I always go for gewürztraminer when scenting lychee, but had a Chenin blanc from India at LIWF that was loaded with lychee. Still not sure if I believe them. Then I had a real lychee wine and it tasted of grapes (not really, it also tasted of lychee - delicious, actually)...

Graham said...

You certainly like mature wines. I'm somewhat surprised that a 2002 made anywhere to the east of Pic St Loup was made, let alone lasted 9 years.
Looking back I have to say I've generally preferred the 2002s made in the central and western Hérault to both 2003 (too hot and few picked in time/fast enough) and 2004s (generally seemed a bit flat as if the vines were tired).

Leon Stolarski said...

Alex - I've been known to be out on a limb when saying PG (whilst most everyone else is saying Gewurz) and been right. This time, I got it wrong - but what a lovely Gewurz it was!

Graham - I do indeed like mature wines. Only last night, we enjoyed yet another 1990 red from Luis Pato which was full of fruit, acidity and tannin. Lovely! As for 2002, some fairly decent Cotes du Rhones were made, and with Les Vignes de l'Arque being situated (geographically and stylistically) as near to the Rhone as to the rest of Languedoc, theirs compares very favourably. If they were able to salvage any decent grapes from the mess, then the old adage still applies.... it is all about the grower, not the vintage.

Vinogirl said...

Love, love, love, love, love Cabernet franc :)